In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari write that “There is always a woman, a child, a bird to secretly perceive the secret. There is always a perception finer than yours, a perception of your imperceptible, of what is in your box.” Our proposition is concerned with the perception of this imperceptible through the practice of the refrain (ritournelle) and how this is able to make visible long-hidden experiences and reunite scattered memories. The core argument is that the ghosts remaining after a catastrophe such as a genocide are still active as long as their role has not been properly worked out. One way of doing so is to let the ghosts speak through the gestures and words of the living, and the way they speak can be described using the notion of refrain, introduced by Deleuze and Guattari. Our project tells the story of Gülizar (1875–1948), an Armenian girl who became a legend during her lifetime because she was abducted by a powerful Kurdish tribe chief as a fourteen-year-old girl, but resisted him and managed to return to her village. Gülizar’s story lives on not only in Armenian communities but also among the Kurdish people living today in the area where she lived, in the Plain of Mush (Eastern Turkey). We have explored different ways of letting her presence be felt, and found that the different versions of her story, from the Armenian or Kurdish oral traditions, formed a territorialising refrain that asked many important questions connecting the unconscious, memory, and the politics of resistance.
The legacy of historical collective traumas has been widely discussed in psychoanalytical contexts. The works of Abraham and Torok, or of Janine Altounian, among many others, have shown that collective traumas can be transmitted through several generations. But this approach is centred on the individual perspective; the collective dimension of the traumas requires an approach to memory free from the individual psychic space and on another plane. On this question, Deleuze and Guattari’s suggestions in the “Refrain” chapter of A Thousand Plateaus, as well as Guattari’s own developments in his Machinic Unconscious, are useful. They understand the notion of refrain as both the intimate and the collective “temporalisation of our relation to landscapes and to the living world”; as such, it seems to be a necessary component of collective memories.
The issue is then on two levels: first it is about bringing a collective unconscious to the foreground; second, it is about mobilising a vivid memory in order to favour social change. The contribution will show the video No Voice is Lost, featuring the memory of Gülizar’s story through the testimonies of different people (Kurds and Armenians) for whom this story is important, along with the landscapes where she lived before 1915. The song (lament) about Gülizar is the refrain able to reconnect the living and the dead with this space, with this landscape, and cast a bridge over the breaches of time.
about the author(s)
Anna Barseghian, after studying architecture in Armenia, continued practicing as a visual artist. She obtained a Postgraduate Degree in Computer Graphic Visualization at the University of Geneva. Alongside her work as artistic director of Utopiana, Anna Barseghian develops her artistic and curatorial work. Recently, she designed and directed the Désir sans destinie event held at the Théâtre Saint-Gervais, in collaboration with Stefan Kristensen, the company Sturmfrei by Maya Bösch, in May 2013 in Geneva. As an artist, she co-authored two major documentary research projects: Arménographie (2005-8) in collaboration with Stefan Kristensen, and Spectrographie (2010-11), in collaboration with Stefan Kristensen and Uriel Orlow. The first is an essay on the representation of Armenian dispersal through photos, video interviews and texts, while the second is an exploration, through videos and photos, of the existence of “ghosts” in the ancient lands of Armenians in eastern Turkey.
info & contact
Utopiana, Genève, CH
Stefan Kristensen is PhD in philosophy (University of Geneva and Paris I, 2007). He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the History of Art Unit, University of Geneva’s and a fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, University of Heidelberg. He has published several articles in the areas of art, philosophy and psychology of the 20th century. He is co-founder of the Utopiana association with Anna Barseghian and has been actively involved in the design and organization of most of its events and projects. He is also developing with Anna Barseghian an artistic practice centred on the representation of absence.
info & contact
Utopiana, Genève, CH